In May, the Swiss Medical Association released a series of stricter guidelines regarding assisted suicide. Now, assisted suicide businesses like Exit International are upset that it may mean an end to the country’s death tourism.
According to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, assisted suicide advocates are angry about the change that requires longer wait times for people who desire to die, saying it could be cost-prohibitive for tourists. While the change was enacted to discourage the medically-assisted deaths of healthy people, those who are pro-suicide are in strong disagreement with the change.
“Most of our patients are elderly who may not know how to conduct an online meeting. Some don’t even have a smartphone,” said Erika Preisig, president of Lifecircle, an assisted suicide organization.
One woman interviewed, whose name is only given as Aina, is a Japanese woman with a severe disability but does not seem to be dying. “If doctors use their own judgment to decide whether my illness meets the guidelines to use assisted suicide, what about my own right to decide?” she said. “Nobody else but me can judge how severe my suffering is and how badly I want to die because of it, but me. These new guidelines almost turn physicians into gods.”
Others would argue that what turns doctors into “gods” is allowing them the authority to take lives — not keeping them from cavalierly killing their patients.
Dignitas, a well-known assisted suicide organization, was also angry about the rule change, complaining that “the new guideline shifts from putting weight on the patient’s personal view as justification for a physician to support the request for assisted suicide towards a more medical-diagnosis-classification of suffering.” Exit International, the largest assisted suicide organization in Switzerland, added, “The guidelines fail to recognize that psychosocial problems can also be a legitimate factor in wishing to end one’s life.”
Despite the stricter recommendations from the Swiss Medical Association (which are not legally binding) Switzerland has some of the least restrictive assisted suicide laws in the world. International headlines were made when two healthy sisters were euthanized, their family and friends only learning of their deaths after being contacted by the Independent. Prisoners are even allowed to be euthanized there, despite the inability of a prisoner to freely consent. Given the ease of assisted suicide approval in Switzerland and the prevalence of suicide tourism, it’s easy to see why a group of physicians committed to saving lives, rather than taking them, would feel it necessary to institute a stricter set of rules.
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